For 15 years, Hot Springs has been the scene of one of the most famous St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the nation. The First Ever 15th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place March 17 and is held on the famous 98-foot-long Bridge Street, the world’s shortest street in everyday use. At the parade are Irish Elvis impersonators, Irish wolfhounds, belly dancers, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, a dancing dinosaur from Mid-America Science Museum, a team of roller derby skaters, many festive floats and more. Joey Fatone of NSYNC fame will be the celebrity grand marshal this year and Jon Heder, who many will recognize from his role in Napoleon Dynamite, will be the official starter. The local royalty for the event will be Anthony Valinoti, who owns Deluca’s Pizzeria in town and Rose Schweikhart, who owns Superior Bathhouse Brewery, which is located near the parade route on Bathhouse Row and holds title as the first brewery to be located inside a national park. Hula hooper Katie Sunshine will also be part of the pre-parade festivities.
The Budweiser Clydesdales will also be making their debut this year. Many will recognize the horses as the famous symbol of Anheuser-Busch since the 1930s. An eight-horse team will be at the parade and will be harnessed and hitched to a red beer wagon. Horses chosen for the team have to meet guidelines such as being bay in color and having a blaze of white on the face and a black mane and tail. The Mountain Pine High School Red Devil Marching Band will also be at the parade this go around and will be the first certified marching band to ever take part in the annual festivities.
The parade begins at 7:30 p.m. this year, an hour later than the parade is normally held, to give Oaklawn racing fans a chance to watch the Rebel Stakes at the track and still have time to get downtown for the parade. The $900,000 Rebel Stakes is one of the nation’s premier prep races for the Triple Crown. Immediately following the parade will be a free public concert by Morris Day and The Time.
Speaking of music, there will be another free concert the night before the parade on Friday night, March 16, by Grand Funk Railroad and Adam Faucett, who was awarded Songwriter of the Year by the Central Arkansas Music Awards. The concert begins at 7 p.m. at the Bridge Street Stage. This is the first time a pre-festivities concert has taken place for the event. Grand Funk Railroad includes original founding members Don Brewer (vocals and drums, writer and singer ) and bassist Mel Schacher. They are joined by singer Max Carl (a veteran from 38 Special); lead guitarist Bruce Kulick (12 years with KISS); and keyboardist Tim Cashion (Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band). The complete schedule for the weekend can be found at shorteststpats.com.